The Florida Bar

December Speaking Tips

December 11, 2020

Be More Engaging by Avoiding ‘Seminar’ Tone and ‘Speech’ Tone’

You’ve all heard “Seminar Tone.” It’s the tone that comes from someone trying to convey the impression “I am a very serious expert in this topic addressing something very detailed and esoteric.” It delights in acronyms, sections, and sub-sections. It’s what you would sound like if you had to read an excerpt from a textbook on a subject that bores you.

The other common tone that most people should avoid is “Speech Tone.” Whereas Seminar Tone tries too hard to say, “I’m a very serious person,” Speech Tone tries too hard to say, “What I’m saying is very important.” It just doesn’t sound right when someone stands in front of a group of 20 people and speaks as if it were a political rally in a stadium.

Instead, aim for a conversational tone. Read more from

How to achieve vocal power in and out of the courtroom

Public speaking is a crucial part of working as an attorney. Rena Cook, co-author of “Her Voice in Law: Vocal Power and Situational Command for the Female Attorney,” speaks about various aspects of voice and presentation; power-stealing vocal traits; and why understanding your voice is an important first step to building confidence and strengthening your success.

Hear Cook’s ABA Journal Modern Law Library podcast.

How to Captivate an Audience

These YouTube sessions present lectures from a number of speakers, including Simon Sinek, a bestselling author known for writing “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last;” and Isaac Serwanga, founder of Inform & Inspire. Serwanga is a best-selling author, educational consultant and TEDx-featured motivational speaker.

See the full YouTube video of speaking tips.

Don’t Rely on Notes

If you want to give a good speech that will resonate with people, don’t use notes or an outline, says Gerard Gregoire, vice president of litigation services for the West region at Allstate. Instead, he says, know what you want to say forward and backward — much like you would a case file before trial — and practice on your own so that you know the information so well you don’t have to rely on notes as a reminder.

Hear Gregoire’s entire ABA Journal Asked & Answered Podcast.

Tips for speaking to clients

OK, to be fair, it’s kind of “private speaking.” However, speaking to clients can be an important element of legal communication.

Wait Your Turn

Often, not speaking is far more valuable than speaking. Unless there is a specific pause, or a question is put to you – don’t feel an obligation to fill up every gap with noise, just because your client has stopped speaking themselves.

Ask Questions Precisely

Make sure you are asking questions that you need answers to and are actually listening to the answers. A lot of interviews get confused because the lawyer isn’t asking clear questions of their client.

Don’t Waffle

If you have something to say – say it. Get to the point, even when speaking.

See the entire list of Lawyer and Client tips provided by